Della Street brushed past him and rushed to catch the phone before it stopped ringing. Holding it to her ear with her shoulder, she gathered a notebook and pencil to jot down the caller's information. After a moment, she stopped writing and listened, intently. She held her free hand up to her face and took the glove in her teeth, pulling to extract it from her fingers.

Smiling indulgently, Perry Mason took her hand in his and began to tug at the glove, finger by finger, slowly and gently, until the leather pulled away from her hand. The touch captured her attention and Della's focus drained away. The action was nakedly sensual and he removed the glove in much the same way a stripper might begin her act by peeling the satin coverings from her hands. Della rather absently answered the caller's questions and then slowly replaced the receiver without even saying goodbye.

By this point, Perry's smoldering blue eyes traveled up her arm until they reached her face and met her hazy gaze. She spoke, but her voice betrayed her distraction.

"That was Sgt. Harris. He said... police haven't found Johnson yet...but your client has been released."

Perry simply nodded. Della moved closer, fingers brushing the sleeve of his suit coat. He dropped her hand and turned away to pick up the glove he'd just removed. He held it out for her to slide her fingers back into.

"So, I guess we can go home?" Della bit back a small sigh - half disappointment, half relief. "Nothing else to be done tonight?"

Perry nodded again, a ghost of a smile crossing his features. He went back to the door they had just entered and held it open again. Della retrieved her handbag and passed through the opening, into the hallway. Perry closed the door, tested the lock, then turned and led the way down the hall to the elevator.

"Evenin' Mr. Mason, Miss Street," the janitor greeted them as he stepped from the elevator, pushing his cart. "No late work tonight?"

"Not tonight, Art. Heading home for some rest and relaxation," Perry replied.

"You probably deserve it," the other man observed as he brought out his mop bucket and started to work. The elevator doors where halfway closed when a voice yelled from down the hall.


Perry stuck out his hand, halting the doors, then reversing their motion. Della closed her eyes. She recognized Paul's voice and that meant more work. She was decidedly not in the mood for more work.

Paul grinned at Perry as he slid into the elevator. "Hey, Beautiful!" he said to Della. "Kicking off early, eh?"

"I certainly hope so," she replied, glaring at him.

Paul Drake chuckled. "Don't let me stop you. Have you eaten yet? I'm going for a steak and a few drinks before I head home."

"We just had dinner," Perry answered. He sounded preoccupied and kept his gaze fixed on the floor indicator above the doors.

Catching something of the lawyer's mood, the detective didn't reply. He leaned against the wall and slipped a cigarette case from his pocket, flipping it open. "Looks like I need a refill." He glanced up at Della. "This is what I had for lunch."

She gave him an exasperated look. "Those are going to be the death of you, if you don't take better care of yourself. Clay's does deliver, you know."

Paul merely grinned at her and flicked his lighter into flame.

The elevator reached its destination and released its passengers. Paul waved goodbye and Perry headed towards the parking garage. Della followed, fishing in her purse for her car keys.

"You don't need those," Perry commented as he strode out ahead of her. "Your car is still at the courthouse, remember?"

"Oh, right." Della followed him into the garage, somewhat puzzled by his mood. He seemed distracted, yet perfectly aware of his surroundings. She hurried to catch up to him. Once they reached his vehicle, Perry held the car door open and gestured for her to enter. As she slid onto the leather seat his gaze focused on her nylon-clad legs.

The drive was mostly silent. Perry turned on the radio and tuned it to a program of dance music. He hummed along with a few of the songs as he drove. Eventually the Cadillac turned off the boulevard and headed away from downtown.

"My car?" Della asked.

"It's fine where it's at," Perry replied, never taking his eyes from the road. "You won't be needing it tonight."

"Oh, really?" She raised an eyebrow, but her eyes betrayed her amusement.

A nod was his only reply - he remained occupied with driving. Minutes later they arrived at a modern, upscale, apartment building. Perry escorted his secretary inside and up to his apartment. His fingers were locked around her elbow and he all but pulled her across the lobby to the elevator. Once inside he ignored her, instead focusing on the floor indicator, which obviously was not advancing quickly enough to suit him.

When the doors opened, Perry's long-legged stride propelled him out ahead of her as they made their way down the hall to his door. He slid the key into the lock and turned it in one swift motion, so that Della barely had to break stride before they were inside, the door closed behind them.

"You're in a strange mood tonight, Perry. What's wrong?" Della asked as she passed through the open door.

"Nothing is wrong." His voice was gruff. He shut the door and snapped the lock. "Come here."

Della's smile had a sardonic quality as she complied. He reached for her, taking her hand in his. Anticipation was evident in his expression. He repeated his earlier actions - slowly, painstakingly, removing the gloves from her hands.

Della feared she might melt at the feel of the soft leather sliding off of her hands. Once he'd divested her of both gloves, he lifted a hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to first her fingers, then the inside of her wrist.

"I want you," he whispered.

"I know," was her sultry reply.

Perry stepped closer and lifted her coat from her shoulders. She turned and allowed the garment to slide off of her arms. Perry dropped it over the back of a chair as he followed her into his living room. "Sometimes you overwhelm me, Della." She stopped and turned to face him. "I can barely function for need of you," he said. They stood toe to toe, his hands resting on her waist.

"That sounds desperate," she replied, the smile on her face growing wider. She slid her arms around his neck.

"You've no idea." Disengaging himself from her arms, he turned away. "Would you like a drink?" he asked over his shoulder as he grabbed a glass and decanter from a tray sitting atop a low bookcase. "Scotch?"

Della shook her head. "No thanks - not thirsty."

He poured one for himself, then joined her on the couch. Della curled her body into a corner of the sofa. She regarded him with an amused smile, but said nothing. Once seated, Perry used his toes to push first one shoe, then the other, off his feet without bothering to untie them. He downed most his drink and sat the glass on the coffee table. His eyes slid sideways to regard Della as he loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar. "I don't like being desperate - losing control."

"You never really know what you're capable of if you don't let yourself lose control once in a while," she said softly.

He laughed mirthlessly and took another drink then swirled the dregs remaining inside the glass. "I know what I'm capable of. I'm just not always proud of it." He grinned at her.

Della smiled in return and shook her head. "You're incorrigible."

"Oh, I'm worse than that," he said, his voice almost dropping into an almost menacing snarl. The scotch glass was abandoned on the coffee table and Perry stood up. Della got to her feet as well.

"You don't scare me," she said, cocking an eyebrow at him in silent challenge. She started to say more, but the words were lost when he attacked her lips. He pulled her against his body, hands spanning her back as he bent forward and pressed his mouth to hers. The kiss was heated - burning with the intensity he had previously held in check. Della clung to him, her arms resting on his shoulders, hands working their way into the thick waves of sleek, black hair above his collar. His lips slanted across hers, demanding more.

Eventually Perry broke the kiss. He slid out of his suit coat and dropped it to the couch. Della removed her sweater as well, but before she could disrobe further, he caught her hand and tugged her towards his bedroom.

Perry's cleaning lady had been there earlier. His bed was made, something it's occupant seldom bothered with, and a single lamp provided a pool of warm light atop the dresser where it sat. Perry faced Della. Still holding her hand, he reached for her face, brushing back the curls spilling onto her cheek. Della turned her face to kiss the inside of his hand, eliciting a groan of pure desire from him. He could feel her smile against the skin of his palm as she revelled in what the mere touch of her lips could do to him.

Della reached out to wrap her arms around his waist. Perry took her face in his hands and tilted it up to place a kiss on her forehead. Then he moved his hands down her neck, over her shoulders and back. Once he reached her hips, he pressed her body to his and kissed her open mouth, his movements predatory and insistent. His searching fingers found the zipper at the back of her skirt, opening it so the garment slipped to the floor.

Della kicked the cloth away, never stopping the kiss that heated to an even greater potency. Perry's hands were already busy with their next objective and within moments her blouse and bra joined the skirt on the floor.

He stepped back slightly, disengaging her hands which were fumbling for his belt. "You make me crazy, baby."

Della sat down on the edge of the bed. "I like it when you're crazy," she whispered, looking up at him from beneath lashes lowered demurely, despite the naked flesh so freely displayed. Her fingers brushed her ankle as she bent to remove her shoe. Perry caught her arm and pulled it away, before pushing her back onto the bed. He grinned at her as his fingers swept the curve of her stockinged calf and thigh. "The shoes are sexy. Leave 'em on."

Once she was fully reclined, he lowered himself onto the bed and sat back on his heels, straddling her hips while keeping most of his weight off of her body. Again she reached for his belt buckle. He lightly slapped her hands away. "Tsk, tsk, darling" he said mockingly. Then his voice dropped a notch. "Your job tonight is to just lie there and enjoy yourself."

He bent down, touched his lips to her ear, and growled, "Don't move."

"That's not fair," she pouted. Already her hands busily pulled at his shirt until the tail was free of the trousers. "I want to touch you," she whispered. Her husky voice distracted him briefly and her hands slipped under his shirt. She scraped her nails lightly across the skin of his abdomen. The touch quickened his response. He grasped her hands. "Be still, you little minx!" he laughed.

"I can't," she pouted, trying to wriggle free.

"Oh, really?" A hint of wickedness lit up his eyes. "I can fix that." He yanked his tie, undoing the knot and slipping it from from his shirt collar. Then he leaned forward and grasped Della's hands, lifting them up over her head. She looked up at his shirt front as he leaned forward and wrapped the length of silk around her wrists, then looped it through the opening in his slatted headboard, effectively tethering her arms to the bed.

Sitting back on his heels once more, he surveyed the lithe body now immobilized beneath him. Della squirmed, moving her hips and instantly focusing his attention. She waited for him to meet her gaze, then said, "What if my nose itches?"

Slowly, deliberately he touched the end of her nose. And scratched.


The next day...

Della Street paused as she exited Perry Mason's private office, the door halfway shut, and sneezed violently.

"Bless you, Miss Street," Jackson said, looking up from the file folder he carried. He'd been buried in the law library all morning and was surfacing for a quick meeting to apprise his boss of his findings.

"Thank you." She sneezed a second time.

"It's hay fever season," the bookish-looking man said as he squinted at her through thick lenses. "I'm stocking up on remedies myself. Do you have an itchy nose?"

"Not anymore," Della purred. "I found an excellent remedy for that."

There was the sound of breaking glass followed by a loud curse from inside Perry's office. Della's expression shifted into a sly smile that hinted at well-kept secrets. She patted Jackson's arm and raised her voice to call to Gertie at the switchboard. "Would you please call the janitor, Gertie? Mr. Mason seems to have made a mess with his coffee cup."

Jackson fingered the over-sized handkerchief he'd removed from his back pocket and appeared eager to discuss and diagnose Della's symptoms. She smiled at him again and opened the door wider, gesturing for him to enter Perry's office.

"Wait, Miss Street. What is your remedy? Aren't you going to share?"

"There is not enough tequila in all of Mexico to get me to do that, Jackson." She grinned at him. "Do you want to see Mr. Mason now?"

Jackson nodded, his expression confused, and stuffed the handkerchief back in his pocket. He shuffled past her, into the office. Della shut the door behind him, rubbed the end of her nose, then returned to her desk, the Mona Lisa smile still gracing her features.